Friday, April 9, 2010

Transitioning into Power

It's April, and that means a lot of CIOs on Grounds are changing leadership, recruiting for next year, and looking past the summer haze into the muggy times that is August. I am also transitioning from a position of regular resident to one of the highest positions possible in my residential college. While that may seem like a quick one-step jump, in actuality transitioning is one of the most hardest places to be. (Think about transitioning into a new school, a new home, a new group of friends, college, your first job-- the list goes on.)

In class yesterday, one friend introduced the idea of liminality in her presentation. Coined by Victor Turner, it is an anthropological term that describes the spot in between the structure and another structure. We can call that spot the "anti-structure," because Turner defines it as ambiguous and when rules and hierarchy are turned up on their heads. However, you usually pass from the state of liminality back into a structure, albeit possibly a new one. This diagram might make this very clear:
A great example of liminality is the time when final exams are over, but you haven't "graduated." High school seniors may experience this feeling of liminality, and so do 4th years at UVA. You aren't part of one structure and not tied down to the next one; you are in a state of liminality where you are free from both rules and free to reflect on both structures.

So back to my example, I am in a state of liminality. I have been elected into a position, but I do not have the powers transferred to me yet. I want to take advantage of this liminality to look back and forward and critique what I want to do.
As with all organizations, the transitional period is crucial in setting standards for the change of power, the turnover of members, and introduction for new traditions. I hope I can be mindful of this, and will work closely and carefully to maintain a sense of continuity to ease the transition.